Leyton Marsh Is Their No.1 Choice: But Do The Numbers Add Up?

Scoring the Sites 

It is important not to be taken in by the “scoring matrix” that the LVRPA has used to assess the relative merits of the four alternative sites for the new Ice Centre.  The fact that it is based on numbers lends it a spurious air of objectivity.  As it happens its whole methodology is seriously flawed.

   
Lea Bridge Rd

LV Ice Centre

Lea Bridge Rd

Waterworks

Olympic Park

Eton Manor

Picketts Lock

Athletics Centre

Location 16.1% 16.1% 16.6% 9.7%
Accessibility/Transport 14.0% 13.6% 14.8% 9.2%
Physical Characteristics 17.6% 12.8% 10.8% 18.8%
Commercial/Financial 13.2% 16.8% 14.0% 13.2%
Policy 13.8% 13.3% 14.4% 14.2%
Overall score 74.6% 72.6% 70.6% 65.1%
RANK 1 2 3 4

 

Firstly, the numbers are all expressed as percentages.  But percentages of what — perfection?  For example, if a site scores 50% on car-parking, does that mean that it has only half the required number of car-parking spaces?  If that is so, then clearly all four sites must be rejected out-of-hand, since none of them scores more than 20% on any of the five criteria.  So what do the percentages represent?  Should we interpret them as purely relative numbers?  So (to use the example of car-parking again), if one site scores 10% for car-parking and another scores 20%, does that mean that the second site has twice as many parking spaces as the first?  But what if the first site has enough spaces?  It cannot then be seriously argued that the second site is twice as good (as regards car-parking), merely because it has a lot of superfluous spaces.

Even if the objection above can be overcome – if the scores shown for the four sites for one criterion truly represent the sites’ relative merits as regards that one criterion – we are still left with a problem when we come to combine the scores for different criteria.  Consider the following situation, with two sites and two criteria.

Criterion LV Ice Centre Eton Manor
Physical characteristics 17.6% 10.8%
Commercial/Financial 13.2% 14.0%

This shows that the LV Ice Centre is better than Eton Manor for physical characteristics, but worse for commercial/financial.  But how are we to obtain a combined score?  Remember that the numbers in the table only have a meaning when read horizontally – there is no meaningful comparison when read vertically.  For all we know, an acceptable score for Physical characteristics might be 100% while an acceptable score for commercial/financial might be 14%.  In that case the relative advantage of the LV Ice Centre in physical characteristics will be outweighed by its relative deficiency in commercial/financial.  Before we can begin to calculate a combined score, we need to know the theoretical ranges of the individual scores.

It may be case that the theoretical ranges of the individual scores are all the same.  But that itself is highly questionable, since it would imply that all the criteria are of equal importance.  Are they all of equal importance?  There seems no reason to assume so.  (And it could also be argued that there are some criteria missing altogether.)  If they are of unequal importance, then they need to be appropriately weighted before they can be added together.

But is adding the scores together the correct way to calculate an overall score in any case?  Suppose that all of the above problems have been addressed: we have two criteria (X and Y) that have the same ranges (let us say 0% to 20%), and they are of equal importance (so they do not need to be weighted).  Consider two sites (A and B); on criterion X Site B is 10 times better than Site A, on criterion Y Site A is 2 times better than Site B.  Which site is better overall?  Common sense would suggest Site B.  But that is not necessarily the answer that the LVRPA would give you.  Consider the following scores.

Criterion Site A Site B
Criterion X 1% 10%
Criterion Y 20% 10%

Note that on criterion X site B is 10 times better than site A, and on criterion Y site A is 2 times better than site B, as previously stated.  If you are the LVRPA, you would just add the scores for the two criteria together, getting 21% for Site A and 20% for Site B.  So Site A wins.  But is that the right answer?  It could well be argued that Site B should win, because its relative merit on criterion X outweighs its relative deficiency on criterion Y.  Indeed, it could be argued that overall scores should be calculated by multiplying the individual scores, not by adding them.

It does not appear that the LVRPA has taken any of these considerations into account in producing its “scoring matrix”.  That being so, its value is very dubious.

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Leyton Marsh: Our Red Line for Development!

central bog

Last time around – we can’t forget the mess made of Leyton Marsh!

It has recently been revealed that Leyton Marsh is regarded by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority as the preferred site for a new ‘double-pad’ ice centre. This is the development we have been suspecting and fearing was in the pipeline ever since the destructive development of the multi-million pound temporary Olympic structure they built on the marsh and deconstructed in 2012, leaving a serious mess of our requisitioned common land and no legacy benefit for all the taxpayers’ money spent.

Just as the marsh has started to recover, a range of species appearing for the first time since the inappropriate sports turf was rolled to cover the scarred land left by the development, we now face it being dug up all over again. For a venue that may just be the beginning of the massive development planned by the folk who just love to ‘regenerate’ green into brown…

 

Leyton Marsh, which they disingenuously refer to as the ‘the Lea Bridge Road site’ apparently came out top when they conducted a statistical analysis of four possible sites for a double-pad ice centre they wish to construct in the Lower Lee Valley. The four sites under consideration for development are all supposedly ‘protected’ Metropolitan Open Land, they are: The Waterworks Centre, Picketts Lock, Eton Manor and Leyton Marsh. However, on closer inspection, we discovered the Authority’s ‘viability’ analysis of the sites in question is not what it appeared to be.

 

Leyton Marsh came out on top in their analysis, primarily due to its ‘physical characteristics’, which sounds convincing and benign – they must mean the green of Leyton Marsh and the close proximity to the beautiful Walthamstow Marshes, right? Wrong. The category ‘physical characteristics’ is determined by:

  • How the curtilage of the ice pads would fit on the site
  • Capability of expansion
  • Ability to generate other revenue opportunities
  • Ground and Landscape constraints (example – proximity of Flood Relief Channel to Waterworks site)

Now if you break down this criterion, you can really sum it up in one word – expansion! They want the maximum possible ground area and least possible number of physical constraints so that they can expand the site as much as possible and in doing so create the maximum number of commercial ventures, or to use the LVRPA’s favourite phrase, ‘revenue opportunities’.

The Park Authority is planning to double the skating capacity of the ice centre AND have a gym and dance studio on top AND still they want the capacity to expand beyond this. Indeed, it seems that it is the capacity to expand which means Leyton Marsh was favoured over Eton Manor, which at least has the advantage of being in the Olympic zone, or the spiritual home of empty car parks, however you wish to conceive of it.

In fact, if you take the category of ‘physical characteristics’, or expansion, out of the equation, then Leyton Marsh actually comes third in the scoring system they have devised, behind Eton Manor and the Waterworks.

Now this is where a friend of SLM was assured by the Chief Exec of the LVRPA that there would be no expansion beyond the red lines. On the plans, a solid ‘red line’ runs alongside the river Lea, so the Special Interest for Nature Conservation site appears to be protected as the building cannot go any further west of this point. The Canal and Rivers Trust also own some of this land which restricts development, at least by the LVRPA, adjacent to the river Lea. Yet there is a dotted ‘red line’ around all the buildings. Shaun Dawson was not clear about what sort of expansion would happen in this area and presumably adaptations can be made to the plans for building and development works. We have seen ‘variations’ to development works many times; the Council simply need to give permission for a ‘variation’ in planning conditions and the nature of development works can transform dramatically. The ODA, for example, initially applied to the Planning Committee of Waltham Forest Council to excavate just 15mm of soil in order to put up a 11m structure on Leyton Marsh. It was simply not viable that this would be observed, yet Waltham Forest Council appear to lack the basic oversight of planning applications that local residents undertake. They will once again decide what planning permission is given on Leyton Marsh and, as any even half-aware Waltham Forest resident will know, their history in opposing inappropriate or oversized developments leaves much to be desired!

Since they granted permission for the temporary basketball training facility on Leyton Marsh, the status of the land has changed. Its use is now narrowly defined as being for the purpose of ‘recreation and leisure’. Its value for nature is not taken into consideration. Its openness should be protected due to its MOL status. However, controversial developments that compromise that very openness have been regularly permitted on Metropolitan Open Land, locally the development of the commercial livery on Leyton Marshes and the construction of a car park on Hackney Marshes went unopposed by the planning authorities in the last couple of years.

When Leyton Marsh was chosen for the site of the temporary basketball training facility we were aware that ‘temporary’ often simply opens the door to something permanent. This was one of the reasons we campaigned so hard to prevent that construction. Now we see how that development is likely to open the door to the expansion of the Ice Centre because I have little doubt that when Waltham Forest comes to consider this at the planning stage, reference will be made to the precedent the temporary facility set for using the marshes for sport facilities.

In addressing concerns about Leyton Marsh, Shaun Dawson ambiguously and, with our experience, somewhat ominously said, ‘The relationship between the ice centre and the marsh has to change.’

What’s more, whilst the new double-pad ice centre is under construction, we have been told that there will be construction of a ‘temporary’ ice centre that users will be able to access at the same time. At the presentations about the plans, the audience were told that any such structure would be at the front of the ice centre, on the car park. However, if you look at the site, this is likely to mean there will be overspill development onto Leyton Marsh backwards or the destruction of trees and other greenery to the side of the present venue. Oh and they might just find that the site of the former and hardly used ‘basketball training facility’ has a handy plastic membrane underground, sectioning off the contaminated material underneath, and all the electrical wiring and pipes that served the former facility and all the original foundations still in the ground. But I’m sure they were just buried by accident weren’t they?

So we’d like to suggest our own categories for LVRPA consideration when planning their new facilities on Leyton Marsh:

– Views of the marsh will be seriously obstructed from Lea Bridge Road and the integrity of our valued Lea Valley marshes as a green lung for East London will be compromised.

 

 Noise pollution will be an issue for local residents, particularly at Essex Wharf, and especially during the night where they already have to put up with an incessant hum which I remember well from the days of the community protection camp on the marsh. Light pollution will also increase and inevitably affect wildlife.

 

– Ground contamination must be considered since the site is contaminated by heavy metals, asbestos and alkaline soils, as well as known UXOs. Assurances that this will be dealt with ‘appropriately’ just do not wash, considering that spoil from the previous development had to be removed as toxic waste, and not before marsh users had been exposed to contaminants.

 

– Expandability: one of the most concerning aspects of the chosen site is that it is preferred due to its potential for expansion. Our community love this marsh and do not wish to see it built on. The stables have already seen 12 expansions on to previously open public land on Leyton Marshes. This is a worrying precedent.

 

– Car parking: the current car park is rarely full, a bigger car park will lead to yet more felling of trees and reduction of green space and yet a bigger venue will no doubt have one. Car parking increases will increase traffic, congestion and air pollution on the Lea Bridge Road. The Mini Holland scheme, which just led to the destruction of mature trees on the marsh, was meant to reduce reliance on cars.

– ‘Development, Development, Development‘  Leyton Marsh acts as a buffer for the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) on Walthamstow Marsh.  Walthamstow Marsh is rapidly getting enclosed and cut off. I understand that there are plans for a housing development  on Argall Road on the other side of the railway line, there is Riverside Close on the other side of the river and now there is the threat of development on Leyton Marsh.

– Low Spec: One of the reasons Eton Manor was not selected as the prime venue is due to the higher building spec that would be required, suggesting the building on Lea Bridge Road will be visually poor, not unlike the current building.

 

‘Lastly but not leastly’ we know you lie LVRPA, you lie and you lie again; we have comprehensive experience of dishonesty and disregard for the safety and welfare of the public during previous ‘development’ works on Leyton Marsh. And we will be with you every step of the way again as you try and tear up the marsh –as valuable to nature as it is to the hundreds of local residents without gardens.

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Pipe’s Overflow of Wrath Towards Environmentalists: SLM Member Responds…

You may have read the recent report in the Citizen newspaper about Sporting Hackney’s delegation to create a local football stadium. Not only did Jules Pipe say it would be ‘ideal’ to see this new facility built on the marshes but that anyone who thought otherwise belonged to a ‘bunch of tree huggers’. Whilst some took this particular attempt to be derogatory as an inadvertent compliment. others expressed utter dismay at his clear contempt for local user groups and volunteers who had not even been consulted about such a possibility. The chair of Mabley Users Group resigned his membership of the Labour Party in response to the Mayor’s contempt for local people who have committed so much effort to protect and enrich our commons which the Mayor is only too happy to see commodified, rather than help clubs find appropriate brownfield sites in the borough. Apparently there is a defunct stadium behind the Hare & Hounds, just down from the marshes on Lea Bridge Road.
SLM member Kev sums up the response of many of us…
Once again Mayor Jules Pipe proves how little he cares about open spaces in Hackney. To dismiss anyone who disagrees with him as a ‘tree huger’ shows his contempt for local people who care about the environment they live in. The very fact that these “acres out there” are being enjoyed by young and old alike to play not just football, but a whole host of sports and other recreational activities (including dog walking) should be protected as a valuable community asset, not fenced off for single use sport for people who can afford it. Surely we lost enough to the Olympic Park.
The very fact that Hackney isn’t “in the middle of the countryside!” means that the green space we have is treasured that much more by the people who live by and use the Marshes.
Just like many other London Boroughs at the moment it seems that Jules Pipe and LBH want to make money out of their green spaces rather than protect them. It’s time to think not just of the councils bank balance but the mental and physical health of residents both current and future. The people you serve Mayor, want their green spaces to remain, because once they’re gone, there’s no getting them back.
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What impact will Lea Bridge development have on the marshes?

The planning application for 97 Lea Bridge Road has just been publicised by Waltham Forest. 300 homes are proposed for the site which is east of the new Lea Bridge station on Argall Way overlooking Leyton Marsh. Existing industrial/ commercial buildings are proposed to be demolished to make way for the scheme which incudes 3 x tower blocks of up to 18 storeys. The planning application is listed as No.153834 on WF Council website planning application pages. (The end date for sending in objections has now been confirmed and will now be Monday 14th March).

In light of this latest development news, local resident Claire Weiss reflects on what impact this proposed development. alongside that of a possible free school on the Thames Water site, the Mini Holland scheme and the construction of a new ice rink will have on the marshes…

In principle I support the building of more homes – primarily because more and more people need somewhere to live. The more drastic the housing shortage, the more will be the pressure for property and rent prices to rise. I am opposed to housing schemes that have low proportions of homes available at the ‘affordable’ level – I suggest the need in our area is for something like 80% to be in this social housing category. I am also opposed to housing schemes that are unsuitable from the environmental point of view. The three 18-storey tower blocks proposed will contravene much research on what kind of accommodation is suitable as homes for people especially families to live in: they will also change the nature of Leyton Marsh as an open space, since they will rise above a horizon level and create a landmark where one is not needed. We won’t stop the building of 300 homes, but we can influence their nature, relevance and appearance.

There are other dilemmas. In principle I support the Mini-Holland aims of improving the air quality by encouraging more people to cycle and walk and take fewer short journeys in cars. However the Mini-Holland infrastructure under construction next to Lea Bridge Road on the marshes is replacing grassland with horrifying amounts of tarmac, felling many trees in the process.

And lastly but not least, the ice rink proposals, whatever the LVRPA plumps for in the end – I am aware that this facility is valued by local young people, and it’s seen as a positive environment for children and people of all ages to enjoy being active informally.

Before long, I suspect that Lea Bridge Road will be an urban road, and the open land of the marshes will hardly be visible. The encroachment is difficult to stop. More people need homes; they need transport facilities; they need social facilities. The coming of the railway to Leyton in 2016 is having a similar effect to that of 1840 when it originally opened – it was the trigger for the development of housing, shops, schools etc. My view is that we have to strongly influence the nature and appearance of the proposed buildings, and we have to defend the existence of the remaining open land to remain as unspoilt as possible. At the same time I acknowledge that, paradoxically, residents new and old should go and enjoy the wilder marshes in greater numbers. This should not be the preserve of a few.

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The Edgelands of Development?

Members of SLM met with the Lee Valley Regional Park on Monday night to discuss the LVRPA’s plans for a new twin-pad ice rink. The LVRPA is currently evaluating four different sites against a set of criteria. These are:
* Eton Manor
* Pickett’s Lock
* The Waterworks
* The site of the current Lee Valley Ice Rink
 And, if none of these stack up or they cannot secure the funding necessary to build a new rink, they will re-furbish the current rink. Whilst it was heartening that the LVRPA are being more open about their decision-making process than they have been in the past and have committed to carrying out a full consultation with local people before making a decision, we are dismayed that all four sites are Metropolitan Open Land. Whichever way they jump, we will lose open green space. And the worry is that, eventually, they will want to develop all four sites. The LVRPA needs (or believes it needs) to generate an income and to do that it needs (or believes it needs) venues. Venues usually involve buildings or fencing, and that’s not good for those of us who like our leisure free and unstructured, and who believe that we need to preserve wild, green, open spaces at all costs.
We’re concerned that people will look at maps of the proposed development sites and think, ‘Oh, we’re only losing a little bit of land. What fun it’ll be to go ice skating or play five-a-side football on a floodlit astroturf pitch.’ And they are right, we will only lose an acre here and an acre there, but if those in power keep eating away at our green spaces (they are ours remember) then it isn’t hyperbolic to say that there will soon be nothing of them left. We have to draw a red line. We have to say no. No to development of any kind on Metropolitan Open Land. And that includes a new ice rink.
The LVRPA have shared their four site plans. They don’t show exactly where the ice rink would go at each site (it could be a different shape, for example), but they do show the rough locations and approximate footprint.
LVIC Context (BW) 110116-PTLVHTC Context (BW) 110116-PT
LVLC Context v2 (BW) 110116-PT
WWC Opt C (AB) 250116-PT
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New Calendar Available Now!

SLM Calendar add 2016

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Public Inquiry Outcome

After June’s public inquiry, we were recently contacted by the Planning Inspector regarding the result. North Marsh pavilion and car park have been granted permission whilst East Marsh car park, retained without approval after the Olympics, has been refused permission, see here: COM 603 & COM 604 Hackney Marshes

We are happy that the correct decision has been reached regarding the unlawfully retained car park at East Marsh and therefore expect Hackney Council to remove it immediately. Although we are disappointed that the pavilion will now be built on what is presently green space, we understand that the inspector did take our views into account, acknowledging that the development would have a negative impact on informal users of the marshes. She was no doubt prompted in her decision by the urgency to provide suitable facilities for the sports clubs which had been left lacking by Hackney Council. This decision will result in another large car park on the marshes so we sincerely hope that this will be the last car park constructed on our common land.

Any future Council plans should involve everyone in a proper consultation to avoid unnecessary expense and community division between marsh users.a

Personal responses to decision

It’s been a few weeks since we received the Planning Inspector’s Decision about the North Marsh Pavilion and the East Marsh car park, and I am still thinking about it.
Like all of us who worked so hard to put together the case against the applications, I am very sad that one tree will definitely be felled on North Marsh, that other trees may die and that where now there is grass there may soon be an ugly building, and I’m pleased that the car park will be removed from East Marsh. Yet I don’t seem to be as disheartened by the decision as others, and I have been considering why. Perhaps it is because I am, mostly, a glass-half empty person and if you expect the worst then you are pleasantly surprised when things turn out better than you hoped for. Yet that isn’t the whole story.
As the inquiry due to a close my hunch was that we would win on East Marsh and lose on North Marsh, so the decision was pretty much what I was expecting. And we did win. Let’s not forget that. We didn’t win on all counts, but we did win. Hackney Council do need to remove the car park from East Marsh. Our hard work will help turn a little bit of concrete back into green space and, in my book, that’s worth celebrating. It isn’t a rip roaring 24-hour party kind of a celebration, but it’s a raised glass in acknowledgement of a hard-won achievement kind of a celebration. I was so proud to stand alongside everyone else who made the case against the application at the inquiry. We are all very different kinds of people, with different skills and different ways of going about things and – against all the odds – we managed to get organised, stay focused and work together to present a case that was complimented by the opposition and by the inspector herself contrary – I suspect – to expectations. That’s another reason I feel some kind of hope. We’ve done this once and we did ok. Next time we’ll be able to put our new-found expertise to work and our case will be even stronger. And if Hackney Council, Waltham Forest Council or the Lea Valley Regional Park want to see that as some kind of threat, then perhaps it may well be just that!
Abi
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